Six steps to start cooking and stay healthy

Con­fronted by ill health, many of us don’t how to cook our way out of the cul-de-sac we are in

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Nutrition - John McKenna John McKenna is the author of Ire­land The Best

“Grad­u­ally and then sud­denly.”

Ernest Hem­ing­way was talk­ing about bankruptcy when he wrote those mem­o­rable lines in his novel, The Sun Also Rises. But, if he had been dis­cussing health rather than money, Hem­ing­way might very well have been de­scrib­ing age­ing, and health. Age creeps up on us and, grad­u­ally, then sud­denly, it seems to steal our health.

My con­ver­sa­tions with my age co­hort th­ese days are pep­pered with de­tails of hos­pi­tal trips, statins, type-2 di­a­betes di­ag­noses, more statins, blood pres­sure scares, heart mur­murs – the litany of med­i­cal sto­ries that emerge when the wheels start to loosen on the hu­man wagon as you head to­wards 60 years of age.

What threw the sit­u­a­tion into par­tic­u­lar re­lief for me hap­pened at the re­cent Seaweed4Health con­fer­ence, in Gal­way, when Me­la­nia Lynn Cor­nish, of Acadian Sea­weeds, stated that “in less than 100 years, non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, in­clud­ing neuro-de­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­ders, have sur­passed in­fec­tious dis­eases as the prin­ci­pal cause of death.”

Ms Cor­nish was clear about the prob­lem: we are all suf­fer­ing from gut dys­bio­sis. We need to re­pro­gramme our mi­cro­bio­tas, or else we will steadily suc­cumb to Parkin­son’s, and Hunt­ing­ton’s, and Alzheimer’s, and all the other nasty neuro-de­gen­er­a­tive reapers which are to­day the ever-in­creas­ing ways in which we die.

Of course, when you get a bunch of sea­weed-ob­sessed aca­demics to­gether, they will sug­gest that eat­ing sea­weeds is the way to go in or­der to stay healthy as we age, and the ev­i­dence is per­haps on their side – the peo­ple of Ok­i­nawa in Ja­pan live longer than any­one else on our planet, and they eat more sea­weeds than any­one else. But when I thought about the con­ver­sa­tions with my – mostly male – fam­ily and friends, I be­gan to re­alise the prob­lem is big­ger than just the is­sue of sea­weeds, and gut health, and the fi­bre we should be eat­ing but aren’t.

The prob­lem my gen­er­a­tion faces is sim­ple: con­fronted by ill health, very many of them don’t how to cook their way out of the cul-de-sac they are sud­denly in. Decades of hard work and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have meant there was never time to mas­ter the kitchen skills that are the best guar­an­tor of good health.

When sick­ness hits, you need a strat­egy that will cure you, and also keep you well. And the only way to do that is to be able to cook. So, here are six steps to start cooking, and stay healthy:

Do a cook­ery course

And do it now. Can­cel your va­ca­tion and get an apron on at one of the many ex­cel­lent cook­ery schools through­out the coun­try. Once you can com­pe­tently chop an onion, you are on your way.

Cook from raw

It’s be­com­ing clear than con­stituent el­e­ments of pro­cessed foods are not good for our gut health, so cooking means cooking raw in­gre­di­ents from scratch. Chop that onion, and take it from there.

Eat the rain­bow

Our di­ets to­day are bor­ingly mono­chrome, so think tech­ni­colour: red chard; pur­ple-sprout­ing broc­coli; ruby-red or­gan meats; yel­low ba­nanas; pale white milk; dark-brown cho­co­late.

Get the fi­bre in

Lack of di­etary fi­bre is one of the big­gest causes of gut dys­bio­sis. So, start snack­ing on seeds and fruit and nuts, and get pulses and potato skins onto your plate.

Eat sea­weeds

Sea­weeds are an an­cient key­stone species of our mi­cro­biome, but you don’t have to head to the shore­line to get them. Your near­est whole­food shop will have them in neat, nifty bags, all ready to be used.

Cook sim­ple

The best food, and the best-tast­ing food, is food that has been cooked sim­ply. You don’t need to be a masterchef. You just need to be able to chop that onion.

You don’t need to be a masterchef. You just need to be able to chop that onion

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